We'd love to increase the understanding Australians have of the experiences and history of asylum seekers, refugees and other new arrivals. Authentic friendships begin with a genuine welcome and are deepened through greater appreciation of the stories of those we befriend. Please share your story of why you came to Australia, how you were welcomed, and what life is like for you today.

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Mariam Veiszadeh

Mariam Veiszadeh

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan during the Soviet War in 1984. I, like every other human being living on this earth, didn't exercise any choice in where, or the circumstances in which I would be born.

Due to the Soviet war my family had to flee Afghanistan in 1988. Our journey took us from Kabul to India, to the Czech Republic, followed by Germany and then finally we were granted asylum in Australia in 1991 under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian program.

I was enrolled in school both in India and Germany, each time making new friends and learning a completely new language. Upon arrival in Australia I was immediately enrolled into English as Second Language (ESL) classes.

Now when I reflect on my humble beginnings, it is still unbelievable to think that I arrived in Australia as a shy 7 year old who couldn't speak a word of English. I will be forever grateful to Australia for the educational opportunities I have been given and for allowing my family and I, to call Australia our 'home'.

I am often saddened though by the conduct of some of our politicians and media personalities who seem to be peddling peoples' prejudices rather than challenging them. Multiculturalism is here to stay and not just in the form of Chinese dumplings and Turkish kebabs so let's all work towards ensuring that the Australia that we all call home, doesn't just seek to tolerate diversity, but rather, celebrates it.

Mariam Veiszadeh, Lawyer and Muslim Community Advocate